Beth Burns met with the media to discuss the upcoming 2009-10 season.
Oct. 13, 2009
SAN DIEGO -
SDSU Head Coach Beth Burns:
"It's finally here. Christmas is here. Christmas for coaches; I think players think Christmas is more games than practices. This Friday at 5 p.m. we are able to officially defend our (Mountain West) crown over in Viejas Arena and it's going to be kind of a cool night. We're going to go from 5 to 7 p.m., our guys are going to go from 7 to 9. Between 6 and 8 p.m. we're going to have an open-to-the-public, you can come in, you can watch the end of our practice, meet our team, meet the guys' team, watch the beginning of their practice, and hopefully while you're there be so motivated that you can purchase season tickets while you're watching our practices. It would be great to give us a little taste and have some fans in the building when we first open up. There's no secret to who and what we are. We have a lot of people back from a year ago. The Fall has been fabulous. The best part of our day every day as coaches has been the opportunity that we've had with our athletes. They're locked in. They're confident but hungry and can't wait to get started."
On how comfortable the program is with a "target on their backs" and being the team to beat:
"I think very comfortable for two reasons. First, when you've risen from the depths, I sure as heck, to a player, you'd rather be picked first than ninth. Most importantly, if you look at our non-conference (schedule), it may be the most competitive non-conference schedule that we've ever undertaken, and that is in our forefront. Winning the league is most important, defending your crown, because that gets you the automatic ticket (to the NCAA Tournament). Right now, when we have an opening week that includes USD, Arizona, go on the road and in three days, playing two Top 5 teams in Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and then South Carolina, who is probably a fringe (top-25 team). I would look at (South Carolina) the way we were a year ago. So that has our team's attention. In these terms, `hunter' or `hunted,' we're going to be the `hunter' for a large part of November and December and I think that's our thought process. We'll see how that turns out before we hit the Mountain West Conference. I think our team is excited and to a player, would have been disappointed if they weren't preseason pick No. 1. I think they feel they've earned that."
On Jené Morris' offseason work in light of her improving throughout last season:
"It's scary. ... I tell you the last component for her is that she's really gotten in the weight room. Her strength and power now matches her speed and her skills. She had a fabulous opportunity to do an internship this summer, stay right here San Diego, and trained harder and more consistently than she's ever trained. She has lived in the ARC. She's mad if she misses a shot. There's a hunger that seniors have that you can never explain to athletes until they're seniors. It's hard for me ... we speak a lot to Jené, and deservedly so, but I've said this over and over again, Quenese Davis is the `red and black straw that stirs our drink,' the two of them together have taken us to where we are and they both have really developed as leaders and have improved their games. You will see a better backcourt than last year."
On the team's younger players:
"I feel that because Jené and (Quenese), no matter what we try to do, they're going to go. At the end of this year, they're going to go. We really critically targeted to bring someone in while they were still here and Kiyana Stamps is that someone, a freshman guard from Perris High School, that we feel can play right now. Can she play to their level? Of course not. She's 18 years old and her biggest road trip has probably gone from Perris to Northern California. The cool thing for us, when you build, your younger players are who's playing and you are their leader and you are their captain and you have to show them how to be. This has been the easiest offseason we've ever had because Kiyana wants to be like Jené, and Jené has taken Kiyana under her wing and they shoot together and work together and train together, and if Kiyana can perform against Jené and Q in a daily setting, she'll be ready to go. She's one that, early, I think will compete.
"The biggest difference in our team from a year ago ... is in our inside game. Paris Johnson has done anything we're asked. She's had a lot of tough circumstances and she's been here. She came in after an auto accident, played her freshman year with a bolt in her hip. Last year we lose Allison (Duffy) before the season even starts. Add a very productive Jennifer Layton-Bailes, who at 5-11 makes us change our whole offensive structure. Paris is ready to go. I think that the addition Jessika Bradley, who's the newcomer of the year, a new-and-improved Candace Chambers a year older, all our inside players; I think the difference in our team is we'll be able to compete different ways. Last year we could only really beat you one way. Now the good news is we were able to do that multiple times, but we didn't have a lot of `Plan Bs.' This year, our half-court game will be much better."
On early standouts in workouts:
"We get two hours a week. Everybody has different philosophies with their two hours a week. Mine is more, `they're certainly going to forget everything they did today a week from today,' so we really just attack fundamentals. We mostly do position groups, we mostly just get better fundamentally, we spend a lot of time shooting the ball. There are not a lot of concepts that we put together. We really just started that yesterday on the court. If I had to single out one returner, I would say Jerica Williams. Jerica Williams has lost about 15 pounds and she needed to do that to compete at the level that she wanted to to be able to play in the style that we have. We're excited for her. She was really a freshman in a lot of ways a year ago. (She) hadn't competed in almost two years because she didn't play much at UCLA. She's been one who has shown us `I want a little of this court action.'"